Suffolk University Law Professor Triggers Firestorm With Criticism of Care Packages To U.S. Troops

Michael Avery, a professor at Suffolk University Law School, has found himself at the center of a raging storm after he sent the four-paragraph email below to colleagues complaining about the “shameful” program at the school to send care packages to U.S. troops abroad. Avery, a constitutional law professor, objected to send such packages to people “who have gone overseas to kill other human beings.” As you might imagine, the response has superheated with even Senator Scott Brown (R., Mass.) attacking the professor.

Avery received the solicitation to contribute to the packages and objected to his colleagues:

I think it is shameful that it is perceived as legitimate to solicit in an academic institution for support for men and women who have gone overseas to kill other human beings. I understand that there is a residual sympathy for service members, perhaps engendered by support for troops in World War II, or perhaps from when there was a draft and people with few resources to resist were involuntarily sent to battle. That sympathy is not particularly rational in today’s world, however.

The World War II connection seems a bit a willful blindness. I have been a long and intense critic of both wars. I opposed our entry into Iraq and opposed anything by a brief operation in Afghanistan tied to capturing Bin Laden. From the outset I objected to the large scale deployments absent of declaration of war. However, I have great sympathy for our military personnel serving in these countries. They are carrying out their duties. As I have mentioned before, I have been filled with a mix of rage at that President and Congress in seeing our wounded in airports, but this emotion is mixed with deep respect and sympathy for those young soldiers. It is not due to World War II or the social inequities in the historical use of the draft.

Avery also criticizes the presence of a large American flag in the lobby of the school:

We need to be more mindful of what message we are sending as a school. Since Sept. 11 we have had perhaps the largest flag in New England hanging in our atrium. This is not a politically neutral act. Excessive patriotic zeal is a hallmark of national security states. It permits, indeed encourages, excesses in the name of national security, as we saw during the Bush administration, and which continue during the Obama administration.

Why do we continue to have this oversized flag in our lobby? Why are we sending support to the military instead of Americans who are losing their homes, malnourished, unable to get necessary medical care, and suffering from other consequences of poverty? As a university community, we should debate these questions, not remain on automatic pilot in support of the war agenda.

Once again, while I agree with Avery over the waste of money and lives in these wars, the focus of his criticism seems disconnected. When we have Americans fighting abroad, many (including myself) want to support them even if we do not support the continuation of the wars. The flag is not a symbol of militarism to many of us but a symbol of union of a pluralistic and free people. Having said that, I do believe that Avery’s proposal for a debate is a good one. There is no reason why such issues cannot be debated at a law school. There are many who likely oppose the wars at the school and should be heard in a civil and good-faith debate. I disagree with his position but I support his right to say it. Ironically, the flag for me is the symbol of that right of free speech.

I am concerned over the anger unleashed at Avery who has been called a commie and traitor. I do not think that it was wrong for him to raise his concerns with his colleagues involving both the packages and the flag. He is an educator who believes that the school is marginalizing the views of those who oppose the war and making a political statement on behalf of the entire faculty and student body. While I disagree with those views, I think a professor would be remiss not to speak up if he believed such wrongful positions were being taken by the administration. Professors have a duty to speak out if they believe that the academic mission is being compromised by political actions or programs. Moreover, professors (particularly senior or tenured professors) are able to speak where students or junior faculty or staff may feel threatened in coming forward.

What do you think?

Avery has a long association with the National Lawyer’s Guild and work in police abuse cases. Here is part of his bio:

Professor of Law, Suffolk University Law School; Partner, Perkins, Smith & Cohen (1996-1998); Law Offices of Michael Avery, (1989-1995); Partner, Avery & Friedman, (1984-1989); Law Offices of Michael Avery, (1977-1984); Partner, Williams, Avery & Wynn (formerly Roraback, Williams & Avery), (1971-1977); Special Staff Counsel, ACLU Foundation (1970-1971). Adjunct Professor, Boston College Law School, (1989-1991); Visiting Professor, Georgia State University Law School, (1988-1989); Adjunct Professor, Northeastern Law School; Political Justice Workshop, Yale Law School (1972-1975); Undergraduate Seminar, “Police and Police Conduct,” Yale College.

On May 15, 2010 Prof. Avery was on a panel at the Federalist Society’s rendition of Henry V

Degrees:
BA, LLB, Yale University; attended University of Moscow, U.S.S.R. 1968-1969.

Bar Admittance:
MA; CT; U.S.D.C. MA, CT; U.S. Court of Appeals 1st, 2nd, 4th, & 9th Circuits; U.S. Supreme Court

Subjects:
Constitutional Law, Individual Rights, Evidence, Scientific Evidence

Professional Activities:
President, National Lawyers Guild (NLG) (2003 – 2006); Former President, Board of Directors, National Police Accountability Project; Frequently invited to lecture on the topic of constitutional law and/or police misconduct at law schools nationwide. Lectures at conferences sponsored by Georgetown University Law Center, Chicago Kent Law School, Suffolk University School of Law, A.L.I. – A.B.A., American Civil Liberties Union affiliates, National Lawyers Guild, Clark Boardman, Ltd., International Association of Chiefs of Police, various law enforcement agencies. President, Board of Directors, National Police Accountability Project, NLG,(1999 – 2003); Cooperating Attorney, Center for Constitutional Rights, New York, 1980-present; Co-chair, Massachusetts Chapter, National Lawyers Guild, 1996 to 1998; Board Member, Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, 1983-1986; General Counsel, Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, 1978-1981; Chairperson, Civil Liberties Committee, National Lawyers Guild, 1977-1980; National Council Member, Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, 1976-1979.

He has spoken out against his view of bias on the Court and the need for people to be active in fighting for legal change, including the discussion below of his book We Dissent and his “Kleanex test” for federal judges. The Kleanex test is that, if a lawyer did not have to have a Kleanex box on his or her desk in practice to deal with crying clients, they should not be a federal judge. The point (made in jest) is that too many of the federal judges had career disconnected from the needs of suffering people:

Here is the full email as first made available by Michael Graham:

I think it is shameful that it is perceived as legitimate to solicit in an academic institution for support for men and women who have gone overseas to kill other human beings. I understand that there is a residual sympathy for service members, perhaps engendered by support for troops in World War II, or perhaps from when there was a draft and people with few resources to resist were involuntarily sent to battle. That sympathy is not particularly rational in today’s world, however.

The United States may well be the most war prone country in the history of civilization. We have been at war two years out of three since the Cold War ended. We have 700 overseas military bases. What other country has any? In the last ten years we have squandered hundreds of billions of dollars in unnecessary foreign invasions. Those are dollars that could have been used for people who are losing their homes due to the economic collapse, for education, to repair our infrastructure, or for any of a thousand better purposes than making war. And of course those hundreds of billions of dollars have gone for death and destruction.

Perhaps some of my colleagues will consider this to be an inappropriate political statement. But of course the solicitation email was a political statement, although cast as support for student activities. The politics of that solicitation are that war is legitimate, perhaps inevitable, and that patriotic Americans should get behind our troops.

We need to be more mindful of what message we are sending as a school. Since Sept. 11 we have had perhaps the largest flag in New England hanging in our atrium. This is not a politically neutral act. Excessive patriotic zeal is a hallmark of national security states. It permits, indeed encourages, excesses in the name of national security, as we saw during the Bush administration, and which continue during the Obama administration.

Why do we continue to have this oversized flag in our lobby? Why are we sending support to the military instead of Americans who are losing their homes, malnourished, unable to get necessary medical care, and suffering from other consequences of poverty? As a university community, we should debate these questions, not remain on automatic pilot in support of the war agenda. [all emphasis added]

Source: Suffolk Voice

71 thoughts on “Suffolk University Law Professor Triggers Firestorm With Criticism of Care Packages To U.S. Troops”

  1. raff, there is an IGTNT diary for all of them. It usually appears about two or three days after the DoD makes the announcement. If you want to find the tribute to any of your son’s buddies that have been lost, just type:

    Daily Kos: IGTNT (insert name of fallen service member)

    The diary you are looking for should pop up.

  2. I am the mother of a soldier who is currently deployed in Afghanistan and I find his remarks sickening, however, as my son would say “mom I fight for the Freedom of all American’s even the ignorant ones”. I agree he has his right to his opinion and I have the right to mine. First if you don’t like the flag hanging in the entry way, come in another door or don’t look at it. Second, if you think sending a care package or gathering items to send to our troops bothers you then don’t do it. But dear professor don’t take for granted the freedom that you have to sleep in your bed, to eat a good meal, to take a shower, these are things that our soldiers don’t get to do everyday as I am sure you do. Be greatful that they are there doing there jobs, and that the war is not here. So yes I send numerous Care Packages to Afghanistan supporting my son and his battle buddies. I also send to other soldiers so that they do not feel like they are forgotten. Until you walk in the shoes of a soldier don’t judge what they are doing, its their job.

    Very Proud Army Mom to a 19D Soldier. HOOAH!!!

  3. Lottakatz, you said “Quit if they are morally offended by a morally corrupt war, corrupt in either in its inception or prosecution. Not desert, but quit when their term is up.”.

    Ithink the fog of war is a thicker cloak to cut through than to be that simple.
    I really don’t think it is as simple a decision as you make it sound….most of those guys are pretty young compared to myself and it took me years to learn how to ‘shit-sift’ (still learning, actually….)when it comes to the weasel words of politicians. Soldiers are not afforded the same freedoms that we are when at war. You and I may be free to reality check and such….not so for a soldier in the field.

    Carol, you said “But Wootsy’s, that does not make him a traitor, a commie, etc.
    Here are the words of Donna Shalala, “You can’t have a university without having free speech, even though at times it makes us terribly uncomfortable. If students are not going to hear controversial ideas on college campuses, they’re not going to hear them in America. I believe it’s part of their education.”—————
    If Michael Avery is a professor at Suffolk University Law School, do you think he mayt have an obligation to show his students an appropriate way to exercise free-speech? Did he dress down the political forces that put our armed forces at risk? or was it just easier to attack those who hold the least power regarding the decision to commit to war….

    As a nurse there are places in my mind that I can not go if I am to do my job appropriately and in a fashion that actually benefits a pt. If a soldier put himself into a mindset where s/he did not implicitly trust what s/he was being asked to do, they could nevr do what we need of them. As civilians we have the freedom and ability to differentiate in our thoughts and come to conclusions of logic or compassion or industry….soldiers, if they thought in that fashion would so dull thier neccessary instincts as to become sitting ducks. That is 1 reason why sending them to wars under false flags is such a breach of integrity.

    I didn’t call Mr. Avery any names, but I will say, he had a nasty nerve calling the actions of those who support the troops…’shameful’.
    —————
    you also said “In an all voluntary army you do make a conscious decision, am I willing and able to kill in the name of my country, right or wrong. Does that make a soldier a good guy or a bad guy? I’m just posing the question.”

    Maybe they should always question the words from those that order them to these foreign places? In case they need to say, at the last minute, “no thank you”…

    Do you think that it is wise, now that we’ve been all over the world raiding and raping for oil and shiny goodies all the while screaming “Terrorists!’ at the top of our lungs, pointing fingers and dropping bombs, pulling down statues and blowing up countries, to divest ourselves of the protections that a well apportioned and trusted armed force affords?

  4. There are plenty of people who oppose the war and as an American you absolutely have that right, we can debate whats right and wrong but frankly I have enough on my side pushing that argument right now. I currently serve in the Army and I am a member of the Suffolk Veteran’s Organization. It is the way and tone in which Mr. Avery attacked us that set it off from just “raising political debate”. When defenders of this country are address as “Killers” and we are criticized for raising money for our Brothers and Sister’s overseas that NEED the care packages just as we needed and LOVED them is wrong. We are an organization created to raise awareness for all the troops returning from Iraq who will come home (like Massachusetts own troops) and need school because the unemployment rate is so high. We don’t enforce people to donate, we supply an avenue in which they can donate if they feel so inclined. Mr. Avery’s words were offensive and aggressive, not informative and debatable. He deserves the Negative Criticism as much as as he deserved the right to say those things, a right I put my life on the line to defend as well as those who have in the past, still do, and unfortunately died for.

  5. Woosty: “I do think that there are just wars….and a need for an armed military to be ready to protect and serve. But we seem to have a vulnerability to those that would use the good force of our willing men and women to thier own selfish and greedy ends. Who is responsible for holding those people to accounts?”
    *****

    The responsibility is spread around: Congress that authorizes wars, by commission or by abdicating their responsibility entirely and leaving it entirely up to a President; citizens that elect Congress-persons and the President and seem to have divorced themselves from even thinking about the boundless war making of this country for about 10 years unless they had someone close to them actually doing the fighting; the media which never met a war monger in power that they didn’t like or a war that they couldn’t find good things to say about it.

    The justice system doesn’t impeach a President that lied to get us into a war, Congress and voters are supposed to take care of that. The justice system regarding mercenaries and war profiteers has been, is and I’m pretty certain will continue to be, MIA.

    ————————————-
    Woosty, 2nd posting: “Once we send our people into a battlefield….there is a war on, what would you have them do if they become knowledgeable that the war was ultimately usurped or even initiated by a previously unannounced design?”
    *****

    Quit if they are morally offended by a morally corrupt war, corrupt in either in its inception or prosecution. Not desert, but quit when their term is up.

    Or not, if they have no moral objections or want to be there.

    ————————————-
    Two points: No one serving in Iraq or Afghanistan now is serving there because they signed a piece of paper 2002 that re-enlisted them for 11 years. Re-enlistments are done on a shorter time line than that. The people that got caught in the war(s) when they were declared had to re-up and those that have been in after 2005 had to join up.

    I’m a great one for concerted activity. The idea of starving the beast by withholding labor is not a repugnant thought to me. If you have a war machine then starving it of labor is a way to, if not shut it down, then at least force the examination of a possible draft, something that might curtail the rush to war or end one more quickly.

    —————————————-
    I think that at some point (especially in a long war) the willingness of people to join the service or keep re-enlisting does make them responsible for the war. How could they not be? If they’re foot-soldiers they’re the ones doing the shooting and getting shot at (or bombing or controlling drones), the officers are giving the orders and the REMFS are just that. It’s a prejudice of mine that the Generals and Admirals that haven’t been shot at in 20 years need more time leading patrols in hostile territory just to keep their decision making and policy advice honest once the get back to their offices. Same goes for chicken-hawk politicians.

    (I do think that Avery’s assignment of support to nostalgia for WWII is wildly incorrect, it’s way more complicated than that.)

  6. But Wootsy’s, that does not make him a traitor, a commie, etc.
    Here are the words of Donna Shalala, “You can’t have a university without having free speech, even though at times it makes us terribly uncomfortable. If students are not going to hear controversial ideas on college campuses, they’re not going to hear them in America. I believe it’s part of their education.” http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/free_speech_2.html#ixzz1dtEX3E1V
    In an all voluntary army you do make a conscious decision, am I willing and able to kill in the name of my country, right or wrong. Does that make a soldier a good guy or a bad guy? I’m just posing the question. Mr. Avery has stated his position. I think he deserves credit for going against the grain, standing up for what he believes, knowing it is abhorrent to many: but to continue with Shalala’s position it is also part of our education; a reminder free speech is to be tolerated even if you feel the position stated is intolerable to you.

    Maybe he has started a food drive here, we do not know that, at least from the email. We cannot make suppositions about what actions he has or has not taken.
    Is he a part of Occupy or the anti war protests? Does he write/call his congresspeople and the White House? We can only rely on the 3 paragraphs. Any other ideas about him based on that we draw from our own prejudices against (or for) his speech.
    (In rereading the article I see Jonathon makes the same argument, he disagrees with him but “I am concerned over the anger unleashed at Avery who has been called a commie and traitor.”

  7. Carol I think you should reread this paragraph;

    “I think it is shameful that it is perceived as legitimate to solicit in an academic institution for support for men and women who have gone overseas to kill other human beings. I understand that there is a residual sympathy for service members, perhaps engendered by support for troops in World War II, or perhaps from when there was a draft and people with few resources to resist were involuntarily sent to battle. That sympathy is not particularly rational in today’s world, however. ”

    residual support left over from WW2? come on….
    he is demonizing the FOOT SOLDIER! Who acted on GOOD FAITH in our Governments call to action. Perhaps he should take it up with a higher authority…and once a war is started….there is no graceful denouement….it’s a FUCKING WAR! Which is why it is so important for the elements of justice to be faithful.

    There is NOTHING stopping this man from starting a compassionate home drive to help those in need here…there are plenty who have been victimized by the economic war here at home. In fact , why hasn’t he?

  8. 2 things: I just reread what Avery said. You may disagree with his point about the soldiers and I think he has put 2 things together in a way that is not supported, obviously, by most (at least on this board.) “Why are we sending support to the military instead of Americans who are losing their homes, malnourished, unable to get necessary medical care, and suffering from other consequences of poverty? As a university community, we should debate these questions, not remain on automatic pilot in support of the war agenda.”
    That is definitely a legitimate ?, the money we are spending on the wars has contributed mightily to the deficit. The discussion should be had. Equating ‘the war is wrong and therefore the soldiers are bad’, which seems to be how many here are reading what he wrote, is not his issue as I read it. While written in an incendiary way it is a good question. Why spend the money there when folks here are in dire need? Universities used to have these debates without fear of reprisal or being seen as commies, etc. This man is not a traitor he asks a good question.

    Lottakatz, “The discussion that has never actually taken place is the discussion of the soldier’s apportionment of responsibility for war in a nation that does not have a draft.”

    I have some trouble with that. Signing up is an indication they will respond to the country’s call. Once in you cannot just walk away. I agree that the economy brings many of these people in and that is definitely a problem.

    I have been calling for a draft, not sincerely, but the difference between Vietna, and now is that it was all of us, one way of the other, who could lose someone; a brother, nephew, friend, son. We all had a stake in it.
    We do not realize our stake in these misbegotten wars so people sit on their hands. To me the saddest thing is that people call someone like Avery. no matter how clumsy his words, “stupid, traitor, commie”. He is bad, soldiers are good (and I do thank them when I see them – they do sacrifice a lot no matter your position on the war) and it is disloyal to air out the question and have the debate. Reminds me of the 50’s. Agree with me or keep your mouth shut.

  9. “I think that Professor Avery has had that debate in his head and come to a decision that assigns some good measure of responsibility to people that join up, and more to the point join up many years on into a BS war (or two or more) that anyone should know is a ‘bad’ war. “~Lottakatz
    ———————–
    Wars start and the armed forces deploys…..it is not the other way around. When a soldier in good faith signs up he also agrees to do the bidding of those in command. At the other sde of that soldier is a social contract with all the other soldiers he is fighting with. Once we send our people into a battlefield….there is a war on, what would you have them do if they become knowledgeable that the war was ultimately usurped or even initiated by a previously unannounced design?
    I think it is essential and valid for people who act in good faith to continue to act in good faith. If there be corruption….we have a justice system, that hopefully, is not part of the problem…

  10. “There are shades of grey: at what point does an artificially depressed economy prey on people by leaving the armed services as one of the few jobs that’s always hiring? Should the minimum age be set higher because it’s easy to lie to a 17 year old (and that’s done regularly) but not so easy to a 21 year old? It’s a discussion that is maybe overdue.”~Lottakatz
    —————————————————-
    I so agree with you in this statement.

    I do think that there are just wars….and a need for an armed military to be ready to protect and serve. But we seem to have a vulnerability to those that would use the good force of our willing men and women to thier own selfish and greedy ends. Who is responsible for holding those people to accounts?

  11. e started sending care packages because the troops were going without. In a foreign land. Away from home, fighting for us (or so they were told…)…

    And maybe because the provisions and such had been outsourced to a private company. The things the troops are ASKING for, in the deseert, are SOAP and such. But here is a letter from a real live Colonel that is serving in the 130 degree heat and dust storms…

    “Thanks to everyone for your support and goodies for the Soldiers. They are always received with great enthusiasm! I’m back temporarily for R&R, and then back into the game after that! As we’ve said before, the PX is closing in November, so snacks, toiletries, wipes, drink mixes, gum, candy, and batteries are always welcome. The worst of the summer heat (all 130+ degrees of it) is finally over, so if you were going to send treats that otherwise would have melted (everything except for steel, pretty much), they should be safe to send now.
    Regardless of what occupies the primetime news, the Soldiers still need the moral support of the American people, and your packages, with their little pieces of home, make a world of difference. The Soldiers and I appreciate your support, as well as the fact that you give up the time and money to lift a Servicemember’s spirits. Your efforts make you part of a small percentage of Americans supporting an even smaller percentage of Americans. Every package helps!
    Thank you all, and God Bless you!”

    ps; I’ll add that I’m hearing that the soldierettes are lovin the little avon perfume wipes…..ahh love in the desert! 😉

    Something else we can do to put our feet firmly on the ground we swear by; When filling out your Christmas cards this year, take ONE CARD and SEND it to this address: A Recovering American Soldier, c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 6900 Georgia Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20307-5001.

  12. You can’t fault far lefties as this guy. They have no morals; therefore, don’t know right from wrong. Avery spent time at the U of Moscow during the height of the Vietnam war, where, I’m sure, he learned to be a fellow traveler. This so called prof isn’t ashamed of anything, wonder what his love ones think of him? He’s a sleeper commie and parents should be aware of what this guy teaches their kids. Now that Avery got his 15 minutes of infamy he can pound his chest and claim he made a difference in the world. Now let him go back to his hole and let nature take its course.

  13. Carol, …”And I am not sure this is a bad debate to have because it might bring us to have the debate that has been missing: why we are in Iraq and Afghanistan, what is the intention, under what situatiuons will we/can we leave?”

    ———–
    I appreciate your thoughts on this matter but I would disagree with this particular point. The discussion that has never actually taken place is the discussion of the soldier’s apportionment of responsibility for war in a nation that does not have a draft. I think that Professor Avery has had that debate in his head and come to a decision that assigns some good measure of responsibility to people that join up, and more to the point join up many years on into a BS war (or two or more) that anyone should know is a ‘bad’ war.

    I recall the poster from the Viet Nam war period “What if they gave a war and no one came”. Good question. At that time it seems to me that there was a serious discussion over the pros and cons of draft evasion as political speech as well as survival. Many people saw troops as complicit in waging a political, un-winnable war. But there was a draft and people went directly to jail for refusing their call. Some notables refused, Muhammad Ali (“I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong… No Viet Cong ever called me nigger”) for instance. The support for the troops was a very complex matter and reflected the duration of the war, news of the actual troop activities, the corruption of the draft itself and any strictly personal considerations you had – did you know someone in the services.

    My last coherent determination on troop complicity in that war was regarding the Air Force. I was in a Katz drug-store and they had on the radio tuned to a news station and the story was about a trend in the Air Force. The story was that for whatever reason the Air Force command was not supplying napalm to aircraft as a weapon. Flight crews were using their own money to buy some of the ingredients (the charcoal) and making it themselves. They opined that napalm was an excellent weapon to clean out enemy troops from areas otherwise inaccessible and it was criminal for our government not to support our troops by withholding a needed weapon. I don’t recall if this was before or after the Life cover but I knew what napalm was and what it did and that enemies in inaccessible locations likely meant villages. The Air Force was dead to me after that. F*** them. That was a very direct apportionment of responsibility for (IMO) deplorable acts to a specific group of troops. It was a moment of spiritual clarity, in a Katz drug-store.

    One of the arguments for a volunteer force was that if it was all volunteer people just wouldn’t sign on to BS wars for years on end – it would enforce on our politicians a measure of restraint that they did not seem to have otherwise. The flip side of that coin was that for a variety of reasons, many economic, there would always be ‘enough’ troops with a volunteer force.

    If you join up, for whatever reason, and you’re in the service when a war is declared, even if it is a war of convenience and desire, then could you be said to bear a portion of responsibility for making it easy to declare?

    How about if you joined after the war was 1 year on, a BS war of aggression? How about year 4 or 6 or 8 and you knew you were going to be deployed?

    I think those are the questions Professor Avery may have asked himself and
    his statement reflects the answers he came up with. I also think it’s a valid viewpoint based on the question of complicity of all participants in the war machine and not limited to only the motives of our politicians. My own opinion is actually more in tune with Professor Avery’s than opposed to it. I don’t think his conclusions are radical or at all unpatriotic.

    There are shades of grey: at what point does an artificially depressed economy prey on people by leaving the armed services as one of the few jobs that’s always hiring? Should the minimum age be set higher because it’s easy to lie to a 17 year old (and that’s done regularly) but not so easy to a 21 year old? It’s a discussion that is maybe overdue.

  14. Father of Marine,
    I too am a father of a Marine Lt. and I have a lot of experience with care packages. I would like to echo Mespo’s offer. Let us know if we can help.

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